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Naga talks in April; new interlocutor
Published on 10 Feb. 2010 12:11 AM IST
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The deadlocked peace talks between New Delhi and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) will resume in April after nearly a year, union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said Tuesday. The last round of peace talks between the central government and the frontline Naga separatist group was held in March 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland. It ended in a stalemate. The NSCN (I-M), led by guerrilla leaders Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, had entered into a ceasefire with the Indian government in August 1997. “The next round of talks would be held in April with Muivah accepting the government of India’s invitation to come for the talks,” Pillai told IANS here. “On the invitation of the government, the NSCN (I-M) leadership has proposed to come to India between April 1-10 to hold talks and carry forward the peace process. To that end, the government will be appointing an interlocutor to facilitate the talks and to bring about an early solution,” said a home ministry statement. Muivah is presently camping abroad, probably in Thailand, although his location is being kept a secret by the NSCN (I-M). The two sides have since 1997 held at least 50 rounds of peace talks aimed at ending one of South Asia’s longest running insurgencies that has claimed an estimated 25,000 lives since India attained independence in 1947. “We are hopeful of a broad based settlement and very happy at the initiative taken by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation that helped stop inter-factional killings and violence in the state,” Pillai said. “Yes, there has been forward movement on the talks and rigid positions have changed,” K. Padmanabhaiah, a former home secretary, who has served as interlocutor for talks with NSCN (I-M) for a decade, told IANS. Padmanabhaiah was first appointed as interlocutor for Naga talks in July 1999 for one year but kept getting extensions. Last year, the government chose not to extend his term and instead decided it would hold direct negotiations with the rebels to find a lasting solution to the vexed issue of insurgency in Nagaland. Since August 1997, there has been a ceasefire with NSCN (I-M). The Forum for Naga Reconciliation, comprising apex tribal bodies, church groups, and other organisations, has helped in brokering peace among the warring NSCN factions in the state. The GPRN/NSCN led by guerrilla leader S.S. Khaplang entered into a ceasefire in 2001 but formal peace talks are yet to begin. The rival NSCN factions are fighting a bitter turf war in Nagaland since they split in 1988. The internecine war has claimed more than 500 lives in the past five years. The NSCN (I-M), one of the oldest and most powerful of about 30 rebel groups in India’s northeast, was earlier fighting for an independent homeland for the Nagas, but has scaled it down to a Greater Nagaland, to be formed by slicing off parts of adjoining states that have Naga tribal populations. The governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have rejected the demand for unification of Naga-dominated areas. New Delhi too had earlier rejected demands for unification of all Naga-inhabited areas.

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